Showing posts with label family life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family life. Show all posts

10 Easy Ways to Live a More Sustainable Lifestyle and Not Break the Bank {Sponsored}

Friday, October 31, 2014

This is a sponsored post on behalf of the Nestle company's Coca Plan initiative. 

When I was a kid, we lived in a suburb about an hour south of Chicago. In the summers before we moved to California, my parents used to drag me to a “you pick it” farm all the way in Indiana. After hours in the car, we’d spent the rest of the day filling trash bags with different vegetables. My mom would wash and freeze them so that we’d have fresh vegetables all through the winter (it wasn’t uncommon for us to get completely snowed in for days at a time). My parents, along with three of their best friends, would also buy a side of beef, have it butchered and divided among the four families. It seems my parents were locavores well before the term existed. 

I will raise my hand right now and admit I am not the most conscientious consumer. When I’m shopping, be it for clothes, shoes or groceries, my focus is on finding the best value for my dollar. If I have to drive around town or spend time doing research to get the best deal, so be it. I happily donate items to Goodwill and sell Tyler’s gently used clothes on Craigslist. I’ve purchased from a thrift store only twice in my life because the deals were too amazeballs to pass up. I am a creature of shopping habit. 

But, for the past few months I’ve been re-evaluating my habits. I’ve been paying more attention to the articles appearing in my Facebook feed with subjects about sustainability, ethics, and responsibility. I’ve read up on slow food, fair trade, farm to table, CSA’s and even composting for city dwellers. It’s a lot of information, and frankly a little overwhelming. So much of the information I’m finding seems to be about living a certain lifestyle and making very deliberate choices. 

I’ll be honest; a lifestyle overhaul is not going to happen. I won’t say I’m too lazy to make big changes, but I have to acknowledge that some of the stores we shop in, like the Commissary and Exchange, aren’t going to have a large selection of socially conscious items. At the end of the day, my bottom line is still a top priority. I do know it’s time to start reducing our footprint and paying more attention to what we buy and who we buy it from. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Small shifts can add up. 

I’ve made a list of 10 easy, manageable steps we can start taking toward a more sustainable household. Some cost a bit more, some require a bit of effort and some are only a matter of creating new habits. 

10 earth day ideas for eco friendly green sustainable living

1. Join a CSA. This one won’t be easy for my family to implement. We’re not very adventurous when it comes to our vegetables. We tend to eat the same things over and over again. I’ve seen a few of my friends’ boxes and have had to do an Internet search to find out what some of the items are. If I could find a fruit only CSA, that would be a big hit at home. 

2. Follow the Rule of Three when clothes shopping. Last year I went to an event for My Sister’s Closet (an upscale retail shop, where I found one of the amazeballs deals), and a personal shopper/stylist spoke to us about creating a user-friendly closet and how to put outfits together. One thing she said stuck with me: when you're out shopping, if you want to buy an item, you have to be able to picture it working with at least three other items you own. I’ve taken that to heart and become less of an impulse shopper. 

3. Make friends with your grocery store staff. We’re really lucky we live in an area with easy access to stores like Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Fresh & Easy and Whole Foods. It’s usually really easy to spot locally made products and most of the staff are more than happy to make a recommendation. 

4. Consider buying into a local, grass-fed farm program. This is the one that can get pricey depending on what farm you choose. We’re not going to go vegetarian, but I feel it’s irresponsible for me to not at least look into buying meats that have been raised locally and ethically. If we decide to try this, we’re going to split the order with another family to keep the monthly payments reasonable. 

5. Switch a few of your pantry staples to Fair Trade and/or Certified Organic. I’m embarrassed I never though of this before: I typed “fair trade certified pantry” into my search engine and wouldn’t you know? Amazon has an entire section for this! Seasonings, coffee, coconut oil, baking spices, sugar; the list was pretty impressive. My husband’s favorite salsa, from Costco, is Certified Organic under the Kirkland brand. I have a feeling if I paid more attention to labels I would find that many of my pantry items can be easily swapped. 

6. Do the same for your beauty cabinet. This is another that won’t be easy for us. My skin is pretty sensitive and my husband has eczema so we have to be really careful about bar soap, face wash and laundry soap. Once, I switched his deodorant because there was a great sale to match my coupons (same brand, but a gel not solid). It was a disaster. Fortunately, our son has been able to use them with no problems, but it was a lesson learned the hard way. Still, I’ve added coconut oil as a moisturizer, Vitamin E oil as a leave in conditioner and I’m experimenting with brands of cruelty free deodorant (so far the crystal is pulling ahead). I read a statistic that the average woman puts 500 different chemicals on her body each day. That was sobering. All those chemicals are being absorbed through our skin and washed down our drains. Limiting them is good for our health and the planet. 

7. Give gifts that give back. A few weeks ago, a friend was wearing a really pretty necklace. I asked where she bought it and she told me about a store that sells goods handmade by the Maasai. She’d just come from a warehouse sale. I hightailed it over there and bought two packs of greeting cards, five necklaces, two bracelets a cutting board and salad tongs for $52 total. Wedding gift and stocking stuffers? Check. 

8. Make the Farmer’s Market a habit. Here’s another one I waffle over. I live in between several weekly markets, but not close enough to walk. It seems counter intuitive to drive 5-8 miles for breads, fruit, flowers and tamales (so good!), but at the same time, we’re supporting local businesses and eating fresh, preservative-free foods that are roughly the same cost as what I’d buy at the store. Every time we do make it to the market, we enjoy the foods we buy and new vendors keep the market interesting. Plus, it's good family time and a chance to be outdoors near the beach (don't hate). 

9. Be selective with your charitable giving. Our contributions are almost always to organizations that support military families. I’m sure I could also find an organization that supports sustainability where our dollars are much needed, will go far and will really have an impact. 

10. Give in to the power of suggestion. Seriously. I’ve added so many new Facebook pages, followed new people on Twitter, liked Pins and added magazines on Flipboard that are related to sustainability that it’s changed my feeds. I’m consuming more information on these subjects and the companies, brands and products are slowly starting to seep into my consciousness. Repeated exposure has made me so much more aware of issues that used to get very little of my attention. I’m even considering downloading two ethical shopping apps. Will any of this influence my purchasing? Who knows. But now when I shop I ‘spot’ things I might not have paid attention to before. Baby steps.

As the saying goes change doesn't always happen overnight. I believe everyone needs to start somewhere and it's usually the smaller, simpler changes that lead us to make even larger ones. 


October is Fair Trade Month and Halloween is one of the largest candy consumption days of the year. Consider buying sustainably sourced treats for Halloween and holiday parties, and sustainably sourced cocoa, sugar and spices for baking. Some facts and statistics about chocolate and Halloween: 

  • 75 percent of households plan to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters this year. Candy sales are expected to reach $2.5 billion this Halloween. 
  • About 4% of all candy consumption in the USA occurs on Halloween 
  • Nearly 3/4 of Americans (72 percent) say that chocolate is their favorite Halloween treat. Chocolate scored top points among all age groups, but was most popular among those ages 45 to 60 who preferred it over other candies by 78 percent.
  • Theobroma Cacao is the tree that produces cocoa beans, and it means “food of the gods.” The most common tree is Forastero, which accounts for nearly 90% of the world's production of cacao beans.
  • It takes 400 cocoa beans to make one pound of chocolate. Each cacao tree produces approximately 2,500 beans.
  • There are an estimated 1.5 million cocoa farms in West Africa. The average size of a cocoa farm in West Africa is 7 to 10 acres.

This post was sponsored by Nestle on behalf of their Cocoa Plan. Nestle uses 100 percent UTZ Certified cocoa in its Nestle Crunch bar as part of its $120 million sustainable Cocoa Plan launched in 2009. Read more about fair trade and sustainable cocoa initiatives on sites like FairTradeUSA, the Fair Trade Federation and

Statistics from The Chocolate Council, USA Today, Exploratorium, The National Confectioners Association. Image courtesy of Sujin Jetkasettakorn at

At Least I Can Laugh About It

Monday, July 5, 2010

World of Color premiere, Disneyland, June 2010

Scene: Mother and son are in the car after a trip to Payless, where, once again, they disagreed on what shoes the son should buy.

Mother: "I'm only trying to help you. I know a little bit about shoes. I'm trying to give you the benefit of my since I'm a little older than you and I've.."

Son: "A little?! I'm only 7. You're way older than me."

Mother: [laughing] "I don't if I would say 'way'. How about 'a little'?"

Son: "No, you're way older."


Mom Guilt Stinks

Friday, May 21, 2010

I've been feeling Mom Guilt since the moment I found out I was pregnant. Gasp! I had a few cocktails! What if something happens?! It's gotten progressively worse over the years. Even though I know it's a useless and wasted emotion, I carry it around with me like a favorite accessory.

I pushed for three hours and Tyler came out looking like a tiny prize fighter. Guilt. 

I had to go back to work when Tyler was only 3 months old. Guilt.

We started Tyler in Kindergarten at age 4. Guilt.

I try not to let parenting issues get me down, but I'm a worrier and I beat myself up over just about everything. It doesn't matter that Tyler is his own person, that he understand the basics of right and wrong and is mostly capable of making his own decisions. If he acts like a brat in public, people aren't wondering what his problem is, they're looking at right at me. 

The latest monkey on my back is Tyler's teeth. It seems he's inherited mine which resemble mini mountain ranges with steep peaks and valleys. The result? Four cavities and the makings of a new one. Guilt. 

I'm not sure what Tyler has against taking care of his teeth (and basic hygiene in general). We started fighting about it, meaning I'd yell at him for not doing it correctly and he'd whine that the toothpaste was too spicy and why can't he go back to the bubble gum flavored kind?! 

I found out that first, Tyler wasn't brushing at all, then he'd brush, but with no toothpaste! I resorted to doing random plaque checks, sneaking up on him when he's in the bathroom, putting the toothpaste in a specific position after he'd gone to bed and checking to make sure the toothbrush bristles were wet before we left for school. I had the dentist talk to him, showed him scary pictures of tooth decay and threatened to make him pay for any future cavities. The kid just wasn't getting it and I was ready to lay the ultimate smackdown.

As a last, last resort we got him a new toothbrush, the Sonicare for Kids. It seems to be working. We gave Tyler our old Sonicare when we got new ones, but I think the adult size head was part of the problem. He's brushing without fuss, with toothpaste, and seems to be more thorough. I'm happy that I can stop pulling my hair out and turning our mornings and nights into screaming matches. 

Photo from here

Now, if only I can find a way to get him to brush his hair and not leave the house looking like Crabman from My Name is Earl. Guilt. 

*We received a Sonicare for Kids from Mom Central. The opinions are mine, as is the guilt over not having this post up in time (despite the reminders) because I spent the last two days shopping, visiting with family and spa-ing with friends. Read my full Sonicare for Kids review.

Support Afterschool Programs in Your Area {sponsored}

Thursday, April 8, 2010

When I was four, my mom worked and I went to daycare.  From the stories my parents tell, I hated it. I would cry every day at drop off. It got so bad that, anytime we got into the car and headed in that direction, I would "scream bloody murder," (direct quite from my mom) and my parents would have to spend a long time calming me down. After awhile, my parents decided it wasn't worth it, putting us all through that, and they decided my mom would stay home.
For us, we've been very fortunate in having access to good care for Tyler. We put him in kindergarten literally at the last minute and were lucky our school had spots open so close to the start of the school year. One of the reasons we like our district is the on-site, affordable child care. When I was working, having before and after care right on the school grounds gave us so much peace of mind. Tyler loved Miss Rosie and Miss Molly! They helped the kids with their homework, gave them a snack and offered a good balance between play time and crafts.

But, I had working mom guilt that we weren't able to enroll Tyler into any type of sports or have after school playdates because of our schedules. Now that I'm home, I'm trying to make up for lost time. The few hours we have together after school before the homework and dinner chaos have become really special. We're taking full advantage of So Cal living and we go to the beach, the park, the farmer's market, on bike rides, play tennis, hang out at the pool, to the local skate park or occasionally for Fro Yo or ice cream. Tyler loves his martial arts class and now he wants to start competing in tournaments (hold me!)

Just like my mom, I know I'm blessed to have the option to stay at home. I also know that my situation could change, I'll have to go back to work and we'll need to utilize the on-site care at school again. Finding affordable, quality childcare shouldn't be a luxury or dependent on the neighborhood you live in, but that's the case for lots of working families. 15 million children take care of themselves after school. I see kids Tyler's age walking home after school and it makes me sad thinking they might be alone for hours until their families get home.

Afterschool programs can help keep kids off the streets. My brother didn't go to a formal program. He wasn't a trouble maker, per se, but occasionally things seemed to "just happen" to he and his friends. The hours right after school are when kids are most likely to experiment or get in trouble. My brother got involved in soccer and I firmly believe it kept him on the right path.

The Afterschool Alliance  and its partners are working to keep affordable programs available for all families. Quaker Chewy, a new partner, created a contest to help spread the word about Afterschool Alliance. If you have an iCarly fan at home, enter the Afterschool Rocks Sweeptsakes and Miranda Cosgrove could play a concert for your kids' school and a meet and greet with Miranda.

If you want to get involved in afterschool programs as a volunteer or find a program in your area the Afterschool Alliance has links on their site. They're also on Twitter and Facebook. You have until April 16th to get your daily entries into the sweepstakes.

What are your favorite after school memories?

*This is a sponsored post from Quaker Chewy Afterschool Rocks. I was compensated to write this post but the thoughts and memories I'm making with my son are completely my own.

Three Years in the Making

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

When we were looking for a house, I had a few non-negotiable's. I really wanted three bedrooms, two stories and a fireplace. Everything else was gravy. Luckily, the house gods were smiling on us and out of three of our accepted offers, the house we ended up buying met all my criteria. 


We bought a fixer. We wanted the school district so we sacrificed move-in ready for location and a school within walking distance (not that we do walk, but we could). One of the many "issues" our house had was a non-working fireplace. The seller refused to fix it. The repair kept falling to the bottom of our to-do list. 

During the brief California winters, we've been looking longingly at the broken fireplace, wishing we could warm the house with blazing logs rather than turn on the heater, listen to the crackling and sit next to it sipping hot cocoa together. 

After three years, we finally got our wish and it's just as nice as we thought it would be.

I Thrive Under Pressure (I Hope)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Let's hope the second and third wind I used to get when I was a working mom kicks into high gear soon.

-I will most likely have to re-shoot part of my Tastemaker video.
-I still have one more video to make.
-Blissdom is right around the corner.
-I still need to arrange after school childcare for Tyler for while I'm away.

-Our family vacation is right after that.
-I still need to arrange for cat sitting while we're away.
-Said cat shit on the carpet this morning.
-I used the Spot Bot and promptly spilled the dirty water back into the carpet.
-I'm taking Tyler to the doctor shortly because the side of his neck is swollen and tender to the touch since yesterday.

The pressure is on, but I can take it. How has your day been so far?
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